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Cranberry Harvesting

How are cranberries harvested? This article describes the workings of a cranberry bog and the process of dry and wet harvesting.
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How Are Cranberries Harvested?

Celebrated every autumn, the cranberry harvest dates back to America's first settlers. This truly scenic event is created when the deep reds of the cultivated cranberries mix with the yellows and oranges of the surrounding fall foliage.

The cranberry harvest starts mid-September and continues until a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Cranberry harvesting has evolved over time. They were first harvested by hand. Some time later, pickers used wooden scoops to comb through the vines and lift off the berries. Today's growers use two methods for harvesting: dry harvesting and wet harvesting.


Dry Harvesting
To dry harvest cranberries, growers use a mechanical picker that looks like a giant lawnmower. The picker combs the berries off the vine with moving metal teeth, and then a conveyor belt carries the berries to a receptacle at the back of the machine. These receptacles are either emptied into "bins" by hand, or they are removed from the bogs by helicopter.

The fresh cranberries sold in the produce section of your supermarket are harvested primarily by the dry method. These cranberries are most often used for cooking and baking.


Wet Harvesting
Wet harvested berries are used mostly for processed foods, juices, sauces and relishes. Wet harvesting actually begins the night before the harvest. The grower floods the usually dry bog with up to eighteen inches of water. The next day, water reels, nicknamed "egg beaters", are used to stir up water in the bogs. The cranberries are loosened from the vines and float to the surface of the water.

They are corralled and loaded into trucks. The berries are then delivered to a central receiving station where they undergo a thorough sorting process.

Cranberries are judged by various attributes: color, size and freshness to name a few. Perhaps the most interesting way berries are judged is if they bounce. Cranberries have pockets of air inside them that make them float and bounce. If a cranberry is damaged or spoiled, it will not bounce. An early New Jersey grower, John "Peg-Leg" Webb, first noted this special property of the cranberry. Because of his wooden leg, he could not carry his berries down from the loft of his barn where he stored them.Instead, he would pour them down the steps. He soon noticed that only the firmest fruit bounced down to the bottom; the rotten and bruised berries remained on the steps. His observations led to the development of the first cranberry bounceboard separator - a method Ocean Spray uses today.

OceanSprayUsed with permission from Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
Copyright ©2000 Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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